Home > Paper selection > Paper Types > Newsprint Overview
Newsprint Overview

Newsprint markets and purchasing paths are considerably different from those for printing and writing papers.

Canada is the world's largest producer of newsprint, and the U.S. is the largest consumer.

It's primarily a closed system, with the US and Canada supplying each other rather than buying from other countries. Huge new production facilities for newsprint using recovered paper have come online in Asia over the past several years, with most of the output intended for China's own domestic use. The old newsprint (ONP) used for the recycled content, however, comes largely from North America, with some imported from Europe and Japan, as well.


The Newspaper Association of America reports that 35% of old newspapers were collected for recycling in 1989 but that percentage increased to more than 73% by 2008.

Newsprint manufacturers made a sea change in the late 1980s when several mills added deinking capacity. Since then, the recycling rate for newspapers has doubled.

The shift was driven by laws passed in several states, and voluntary agreements negotiated in others, requiring newsprint consumers - primarily major market newspapers - to buy recycled newsprint. Since 2000, some of the voluntary agreements have stalled or been dismantled.

The new deinking technology that these mills installed also created a market for coated paper from recycled magazines and catalogs. Their clay coatings help remove the ink from the recycling system after it has been separated from the recovered newspapers.

Now, the Newspaper Association of America reports, the amount of recycled content in newspapers averaged 10% of the fiber in 1989 but 35% by 2008.

Bales of newspapers and printing plant trimmings collected for manufacturing recycled content products are divided into the following categories:

ONP #9 - Over-Issue News
Newsprint that is unused and undistributed newspapers. No prohibitives (materials that make the recovered paper unusable for the intended product, or that damage equipment) or outthrows (types of paper unsuitable for making the intended product) allowed. This is clearly a preconsumer grade.

ONP# 8 - Special News Deinking Quality
Quality sorted, fresh, not sumburned newspapers. No magazine paper (OMG) allowed, no prohibitives, and less than .0025 outthrows.

ONP #7 - News Deinking Quality
Sorted, fresh, not sunburned newspapers. May contain magazine paper (OMG). No prohibitives are allowed, and less than .0025 outthrows.

ONP #6 - News
Typically generated by newsdrives and curbside collection programs. Less than 1% prohibitives and less than 5% outthrows. This is clearly a postconsumer grade.

Local governments across the U.S. are increasingly turning to "single stream" collection of residential - and sometimes commercial - recyclables. This system allows people to throw all recyclables - bottles, cans, plastics and paper - into one recycling cart. The materials are then sorted out at a "materials resource facility," or MRF. Newsprint mills, among others, are reporting growing difficulties using fiber from this type of collection system. See Conservatree's Single Stream report for more discussion of this issue.


There is some discrepancy in the meaning of "recycled content" in newspapers. In its 1988 Comprehensive Purchasing Guidelines for federal agency purchasing, EPA required a minimum of 40% postconsumer fiber in newsprint, consistent with the requirements of several of the states pushing recycled newsprint laws or agreements at the time. But in its 1995 revisions to the paper purchasing requirements, EPA dropped its minimum for newsprint to 20%. The reason, EPA staff said, was because surveys of paper manufacturers indicated that the actual amount of postconsumer they were using averaged only 20%, with the rest of the recycled content made up of preconsumer printing and converting scraps.

California had encouraged some of the confusion when it passed its mandatory law requiring newsprint purchasers within the state to buy recycled newsprint with steadily increasing amounts of postconsumer, but defined the term "postconsumer" differently in that legislation than anywhere else. All other "postconsumer" references in California law were consistent with the then-coalescing nationwide agreement on a definition limiting "postconsumer" to materials that had been discarded by an end-user. But California's newsprint law defined postconsumer as also including printers' scraps, despite their categorization as preconsumer under all other definitions.

Our conversations with newsprint mill representatives indicate that they are now, in fact, not tracking postconsumer content at all. Instead, they report their recycled fiber use by the paperstock scrap categories specified by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). Most say they use #8 and #7 news, which may be a varying mix of both preconsumer and postconsumer fibers.


Almost 80% of newsprint production in North America is consumed by daily newspapers. Because of this, some major publishers such as the Washington Post and Advance Publications own equity interest in newsprint mills or own a paper machine within a mill. However this relationship was more common in the past as newspapers tried to secure sources of newsprint. Times-Mirror (Los Angeles Times) sold their interest in a newsprint mill in Oregon some years ago, and recently Media General removed their equity stake in newsprint mill ownership. Still, the cost of newsprint is a major expense for the daily newspapers and this demand will continue to be the major driver in newsprint production. Daily newspapers by and large have direct purchasing relationships with the newsprint mills or through broker arrangements.

For the balance of newsprint end users - weekly newspapers, advertising inserts, flyers, newspaper supplements, and campus newspapers - the paper is obtained through commercial printers, or in some cases through broker arrangements if the purchase is large enough. Large commercial printers with web press operations usually stock newsprint as a standard item for customers who produce shopper guides and local entertainment newspapers.

Newsprint is sold in web rolls and is usually not an item sold by the standard distributors who handle Printing and Writing grades. Some Newsprint is sold as a consumer item, such as newsprint sketch pads at art supply stores. (Brand names of recycled content newsprint sketch pads include Canson or Bienfang.) Packaging supply stores also normally sell newsprint for packing material in bundles of 50 pounds of 24" x 36" sheets. Typically these sheets are not suitable for sheetfed printing presses.

Standard News is the most common newsprint grade, used to print most newspapers.

Colored News offers pastel shades for special identification of a specific section of a newspaper such as sports or entertainment. However, the recent practice of four-color process printing has allowed newspapers to create this identification by using the color of the ink rather than the color of the paper. Thus the newspaper can buy one standard paper stock and add attractions through full color printing. The market for colored newsprint will therefore likely shift to paper for directory production such as "yellow pages" phone books.

Improved Newsprint is groundwood paper of higher brightness, basis weight and better quality surface finish than Standard News. This paper reproduces higher quality four-color process images and is used for advertising inserts. It is often found on the outer few (wrap) pages of weekly metropolitan newspapers. Many local newspapers find easier access to Improved Newsprint through commercial printers than Standard Newsprint. Therefore, many community newspapers print their publication on Improved Newsprint. This grade is sometimes referred to as "High Bright."

Specialty News (Groundwood Specialties) is used for advertising materials, particularly newspaper inserts. These papers are often supercalendered or coated for four-color press printing. A familiar use is for the many advertising pieces and coupons that are inserted into major Sunday newspapers.

Directory Paper is used for the production of items such as telephone books and catalogs.


The weight of newsprint grades is likely to be found expressed as a measurement of Standard Basis Weight (e.g. 30 lb.), however, because of the expanding international market for newsprint and the recent change in ownership of many North American mills to multi-national paper companies, increasingly the measurement is by GSM (grams per square meter) (e.g. 48.8 gsm). The measurement weight of the paper depends on the practice of the producing mill.


Comparison of Standard and Metric Measurements
Basis Weight (pounds)
Grammage (grams per square meter, GSM)



[an error occurred while processing this directive]